Jamie George has opened a window to England’s inner sanctum and described the moments lying in store when captain Owen Farrell addresses the team on the eve of Saturday’s World Cup final.
The Friday-night routine has become familiar since Farrell took over from Dylan Hartley as full-time skipper at the start of this year, but this one will take place amid the exceptional circumstances of the big shootout with South Africa in Yokohama.
It is a players-only meeting, so while Eddie Jones and his coaching staff make themselves scarce, Farrell will gather his colleagues in the team room at their hotel in the centre of Tokyo for an intense session of preparation in which he will encourage the vocal and the not so forthcoming to reveal their hopes and fears less than 24 hours before the biggest match of their lives.
“I just can’t wait for Friday,” said 29-year-old Saracens hooker George, below. “That is his [Farrell’s] meeting, he just asks us how we are feeling and if anyone has anything to say. Often people will get something off their chest if they are thinking about the game and then he says his bit and without fail you could hear a pin drop – everyone is hanging on every word that he says. It is very inspirational without tearing the roof down because that is probably not what is needed but he has a very good feel of what the team needs and what messages he needs to deliver.
“There’s been short meetings, and there have been meetings that have lasted half an hour or 40 minutes. It varies pretty much on how much the other lads want to speak. There’s usually Mako [Vunipola] who will say his piece, Maro [Itoje] often has a little bit, Courtney [Lawes] speaks a little bit. And I think in Owen’s mind it’s quite nice to hear from people who haven’t been speaking, who haven’t got a huge leadership role in the team. He often draws on their feelings and experiences, and sees how they’re feeling.
“I’d say it is 90 per cent emotion, 10 per cent tactical,” said George of Farrell’s speech. “But it’s not shouting and screaming – you are able to get your head down to sleep after it!
“I don’t know whether I will [speak] on Friday but there might be some people in the team who feel like they need to. And they often need that more for their own sake than the team’s sake.”